Things I Like: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 Film)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011 movie poster Gary Oldman

For the last severalyears, I had never even heard of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It didn’t really look like my cup of tea at first (mainly because I wasn’t even sure what it was), but the first thing I noticed was the amazingly strong cast it had. You got Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and many other good ones. The film is based on a book series by British author John le Carre who originally wrote the books at the height of the Cold War. Now many years after the Cold War, the books are more “history” than a “what if” on the future between the West and the Communist countries. It’s a little odd but they didn’t even try starting with the first book in the series as I believe this one is number two in the long line of them.

John Hurt Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011 movie

The story is set in Great Britain with the top level of its spy program. Two senior officials named “Control” and George Smiley have been constantly trying to battle against the Soviet Union in terms of espionage. One of their agents Jim Prideaux travels to Communist Hungary on a mission but things go terrible wrong, and both Control and Smiley are forced to resign because of it. The British government put some of their old subordinates in charge in their place, however something is up. Control and Smiley believe there is still work to be done even if they are retired from the whole “circus” as they called it. They believe they may be the only ones who can stop Great Britain from losing the Cold War.

Benedict Cumberbatch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011 movie

There are rumors of a double agent somewhere near the top of the spy program. George Smiley recruits an agent named Peter Guillam to figure out who is the spy among them. The ones in control are in a hurry to win over the American CIA who no longer trust the British in terms of keeping secrets…secret. They have a special Soviet Spy they believe is giving them wonderful secrets from the Soviet Union however it’s hard to tell if what they’re getting is metaphorical gold or if they’re being played for fools. Because in the spy business, neither the British Prime Minister nor the Dictator of the Soviet Union truly knows where anyone’s loyalties really are.

Mark Strong Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011 movie

Overall Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a good film, and about what I expected. The Cold War has always interested me so it does really well re-creating that time period. Gary Oldman got nominated for an Oscar for his role here, but I wouldn’t say this is his best ever. I think the film really should have started with the first book as you don’t really care that Control and Smiley are retiring because you don’t know these characters at all, if you haven’t read the books anyway. There are some badly explained scenes that only make sense once you read about them and re-watch it, and there is some questions that remained unanswered. There is still rumors of a sequel but I remain doubtful it will ever come to light.

Published by Adam (Neko Random)

Nerdy guy who loves video games, movies, history, tv, and trivia.

4 thoughts on “Things I Like: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 Film)

  1. If you love JLC you’ll love this non-promotional anecdote about real espionage and not just fact based espionage novelists. It’s fascinating. Talking of espionage, whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder you will love this anecdote. If you don’t love all such things you might learn something so read on!

    There is one category of secret agent that is often overlooked … namely those who don’t know they have been recruited. For more on that topic we suggest you read Beyond Enkription (explained below) and this very current article on that topic by the ex-spook Bill Fairclough. The article can be found at website in the News Section. The article (dated July 21, 2021) is about “Russian Interference”; it’s been read over 20,000 times. Anyway, since you seem to be interested in all things espionage we guess you’re interested in Oleg Gordievsky, so this anecdote should make for compulsory reading.

    John le Carré described Ben Macintyre’s fact based novel, The Spy and The Traitor, as “the best true spy story I have ever read”. It was about Kim Philby’s Russian counterpart, a KGB Colonel named Oleg Gordievsky, codename Sunbeam. In 1974 Gordievsky became a double agent working for MI6 in Copenhagen which was when Bill Fairclough aka Edward Burlington unwittingly launched his career as a secret agent for MI6. Fairclough and le Carré knew of each other: le Carré had even rejected Fairclough’s suggestion in 2014 that they collaborate on a book. As le Carré said at the time, “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?” A realistic response from a famous expert in fiction in his eighties!

    Gordievsky never met Fairclough, but he did know Fairclough’s handler, Colonel Alan McKenzie aka Colonel Alan Pemberton. It is little wonder therefore that in Beyond Enkription, the first fact based novel in The Burlington Files espionage series, genuine double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events. Beyond Enkription is set in 1974 in London, Nassau and Port au Prince. Edward Burlington, a far from boring accountant, unwittingly started working for Alan McKenzie in MI6 and later worked eyes wide open for the CIA.

    What happens is so exhilarating and bone chilling it makes one wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more breathtaking. The fact based novel begs the question, were his covert activities in Haiti a prelude to the abortion of a CIA sponsored Haitian equivalent to the Cuban Bay of Pigs? Why was his father Dr Richard Fairclough, ex MI1, involved? Richard was of course a confidant of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who became chief adviser to JFK during the Cuban missile crisis.

    Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote the raw noir anti-Bond narrative, Beyond Enkription. Atmospherically it’s reminiscent of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they’ll only have themselves to blame if it doesn’t go down in history as a classic espionage thriller.

    By the way, the maverick Bill Fairclough had quite a lot in common with Greville Wynne (famous for his part in helping to reveal Russian missile deployment in Cuba in 1962) and has also even been called “a posh Harry Palmer”. As already noted, Bill Fairclough and John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) knew of each other but only long after Cornwell’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby. Coincidentally, the novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti (explained in Beyond Enkription) which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!

    Liked by 1 person

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